TROY LEE DESIGNS A3 HELMET REVIEW
Words by Robert Johnston
Photos by Adam Lievesley
Troy Lee’s “A” series helmets have enjoyed a lot of success, finding their way onto a great number of trail and enduro riders’ heads over the last 8 years. The original A1 helmet offered a huge amount of comfort and coverage in a time where riders were still transitioning from the xc-lids of the past but brought with it a lack of breathability that had many complaining. The A2 helmet that followed it solved these issues but gave up some of its cushy comfort and felt a little less protective.
It is now time for the 3rd generation – the TLD A3 helmet. Aiming to retain the ventilation of the A2 and regain the comfort of the A1, Troy Lee reckons you will never want to take it off, with their #A3nevertakeitoff campaign taking over Instagram around the period of its launch.
How comfy is it? Well, I am not writing this with the A3 on my head, but I wouldn’t say their claims are too far from the truth. Read on for the full scoop on one of 2021’s hottest brain buckets.
The Troy Lee Designs A3 is a premium-level open face helmet that is packed with features and innovations. The main structure of the helmet is a Co-molded EPP and EPS shell that offers patent pending multi-velocity impact protection. This shell features a total of 16 vents, connected via internal channels to provide their most vented half-shell yet. Sitting against the inside of the shell is a MIPS B-series system which allows a degree of float around the head in an impact to reduce rotational brain injuries and offers direct adjustment of the low-friction layer with a proprietary TLD retention system to secure it around the head. The combination of these led Virginia Tech to give the A3 helmet a 5-STAR rating for safety, the highest they offer.
Sitting against the head and hoping to provide the most comfortable fit possible is a 2-piece Ionic comfort liner which has anti-microbial and sweat wicking properties to keep things stench-free. Two thicknesses of this liner (6mm and 12mm) are provided in the box, which adds to the fit customization available in addition to the indexed retention dial to ensure the A3 helmet sits as snugly on the head as you desire. Sitting against the forehead is the Sweat Glide System – a foam strip designed to channel sweat either side of the eyebrows, so when things do heat up there should be less issues with stingy eyes.
The visor features another innovation in the form of its Magnajust 3-position system, which allows the peak to sit firmly in one of three positions, but easily snap into a higher position for the times you wish to store your goggles up there. Composite smart-shear screws are used at the side mounting points of this visor, designed to break in a crash to prevent the visor snagging and adding to the rotational element of an impact. Another set of magnets are called upon for the Fidlock 3D buckle system, which provides the most user-friendly operation for fastening and releasing the chin strap.
The Troy Lee Designs A3 helmet is offered in three shell sizes (XS/SM, M/L and XL/2XL) to fit heads from 53cm-63cm, with a range of colors and designs from the stealthy UNO black tested through to some more complex designs, and retails for a decidedly “premium” $220/£200/€250. For those looking to add an extra special touch to this premium lid, Troy Lee offers a custom paint service so you can have the lid painted to satisfy your inner kit-matching fashionista.
#A3nevertakeitoff set the expectations as high as can be for Troy Lee’s latest offering, so I was very interested to find out if it was going to live up to the hype. Although the colorway supplied to test is limited in terms of creativity, it still looks like a quality item in the flesh, with the classic two-tone black exuding a touch of class. After opting for the thicker of the two pad sets for my 56cm head that sits on the lower extremity of the M/L shell size, a quick few turns of the ratchet dial had the A3 helmet sitting snugly on my head. The strap adjusters around the ears were already set to a good position for me, but they are a good solution for those who need to fine-tune the fitment. The retention system on the MIPS liner does a good job of distributing the force evenly around the head, and there is a lot less movement than the previous generations of MIPS when you shake your head around.
The initial testing period was conducted with the thinner of the two Ionic liners, which required a bit more reliance on the retention system to keep the helmet firmly in place, but still felt comfortable with no hot spots of pressure. Switching to the thicker pad set hugged my skull more evenly, and reduced the reliance on the retention system, creating a truly comfortable lid. However, with this increased thickness of padding came a slight feeling of increased heat and moisture build up inside the helmet, so there is a trade-off to be found here. Nevertheless, the A3 helmet is certainly well-ventilated, offering a good level of heat management, especially considering its protective features and extended coverage. Not quite as ventilated as the A2 helmet it replaces in its standard guise, but there are trim lines marked on the helmet pads if this is an issue, which will keep the strictly necessary pads in place while improving the airflow over the head. After a good number of sweaty rides, the pads have remained stink-free, and they dry out quick after a ride. The foam sweat-strip does a great job of stopping any sweat dripping into the eyes during normal use, so long as you do not shake your head violently or head-bounce too hard after a big huck. Because sweat is encouraged to collect on the upper side of this sweat strip, a strong shake of the head will shake it free, which found its way onto my glasses a couple of times during the test. Nevertheless, it does a great job during normal use
Fitment with riding glasses and goggles produced no issues, with both sitting nicely with the A3 helmet shell. I am glad to see the Fidlock buckle is becoming quite a standard item in high quality helmets these days, as it is nothing short of fantastic to use. The magnetic visor adjustment is not something I found particularly useful since I am not a goggle and half-shell fan, but it does work remarkably well. Until you need to adjust its position, there is not even the slightest hint of rattle to be found – you would be forgiven for forgetting about its adjustability. Thankfully, I have not had to test the protective capabilities of the helmet just yet, but it is certifications and Virginia Tech rating give me zero cause for concern for the time it would need to be called upon.
All in all, the A3 helmet has firmly earned its place as one of, if not the best, half shell helmets I have had the pleasure of using. Sure, it is no small amount of money, but it certainly has the performance to justify it.
The Wolf’s Last Word
Troy Lee Designs have re-cemented themselves at the top end of the half-shell market with their A3 helmet. Providing a comfy and secure fit with a bunch of innovative features and a premium finish, there’s little to dislike about this Virginia Tech 5-STAR rated lid, if you can afford it.
Price: – £200 /€250 /$220
Weight: 413g (M/L)
Disclosure: Our team selects all of the products we review and do so with honesty and objectivity in mind. Some of the products we receive come directly from Competitive Cyclist, who also value our readers and have offered them a 15% discount (exclusions apply) on their first purchase by using LOAMWOLF15. Through this program we may also receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for your support, TLW.